Posted in GRAND PRIX STRASBOURG 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 30, 2014

By Olle Rade

If there are two players in the room with an exceptional record at Grand Prix limited, it is Martin Jůza and Shuhei Nakamura. They travel together to tournaments all over the world, perfecting their strategy and picking up trophies in the process. Between them they have 10 Grand Prix wins and an additional 33 top 8 appearances. After this match one of them will have a foot in another one, while the loser will be out of contention, as both players have 10-2 records.

Before the match Nakamura described his deck as "Ok, but nothing special," which bodes well for the Japanese pro, who so many times have proved his ability to win with decks that don't look spectacular, but in his hands seem unbeatable.

"Exactly one year we faced each other at Grand Prix Hong Kong in round 13. That time we drew in the Swiss and met later in the finals. That was sweet." Jůza reminisced before the match started.

Shuhei Nakamura

Nakamura won that time, although it was a close one. Martin Jůza elaborated that he hoped that this time it would be his turn to take home the victory and the Grand Prix.

Nakamura had drafted a Blue/Green deck, splashing Red for Surrak Dragonclaw. While Jůza was on a fast Red/Green deck, an archetype that we've seen do well earlier in the feature match area in the hands of Ivan Floch.

Aaaand we're off...

The match started with Nakamura setting himself up for quite the challenge when he had to mulligan down to five cards in game one.

It looked like everything was going Jůza's way, when he quickly built an army of a morphed Ainok Tracker, Bloodfire Expert and Summit Prowler.

Nakamura's crippled hand could only produce a Smoke Teller, that he grew with Dragonscale Boon, putting it out of range for Jůza's smaller creatures.

Jůza went for an Act of Treason on the Smoke Teller, but Nakamura responded with Icy Blast, locking down the rest of Jůza's team, and making sure they would stay untapped for a turn, giving him a window to actually win the race.

Surrak Dragonclaw came down at the end of Jůza's next turn, and any removal or bounce spell would allow Nakamura to attack for exactly lethal by removing Jůza's only blocker, a Smoke Teller.

But it was not to be, as all he could find was a lonely Wetland Sandbar. Two Awaken the Bear later and the first game was Jůza's.

In game two it was Jůza's turn to stumble, as he first got stuck on two lands, but with a low curve in his aggressive deck could still spit out both Smoke Teller and Highland Game. Nakamura put the pressure on in a moment of déjà vu by boosting his first creature with Dragonscale Boon. This time a Stonehorn Rider played as a morph.

Jůza found his third land, but his follow-up of Bloodfire Expert into Act of Treason was held at bay when Nakamura passed the turn with five mana up. Making Surrak Dragonclaw a potential blocker for any of Jůza's smaller creatures.

"I really thought he had the 6/6 there, so I missed like 8 points of damage by not attacking that turn," Jůza explained after the game.

As it turns out, Nakamura didn't have Surrak Dragonclaw, but enough other threats (including the already huge Stonehorn Rider) to take the game with an Awaken the Bear of his own a few turns later.

Both players kept their openers for game three. And it was once again a battle of Bears against Boons.

Highland Games kicked things off for Jůza, and was met by Smoke Teller for Nakamura.

With several Dragonscale Boons in his hand, Nakamura however declined the trade, and added a morph, planning to grow them both eventually, as he had indeed found not only two, but three copies of Dragonscale Boon.

Jůza had other plans. And added a Summit Prowler, that grew big by Savage Punch, took out a 4/4 Smoke Teller and attacked along Highland Games, putting Nakamura at 9 life, since no blocks had been made for the entire game.

Nakamura thought for a long time before finally deciding to just attack for 2 with his morph, putting Jůza at 10, hoping to surprise his Czech friend with a second Dragonscale Boon on his turn.

Martin Jůza

Jůza played his five land, attacked with both creatures, shrugged a little over Nakamura's second Dragonscale Boon. And when Nakamura chose to block the Highland Games Jůza finished the game with a lethal Arrow Storm.

In the end Nakamura was never really in the game. Jůza's fast deck got him to a position where the Savage Punch on the Smoke Teller surely was the play that turned the race around.

A quite unexpected game, where both players chose to race with their tricks rather than block and trade.

Martin Jůza wins 2-1, advances to 11-1, and still has a shot of his 19th Grand Prix top 8, and who knows, maybe even a 5th win.